“Here we are. Again.”
Tara sighed and bit her lip. She and her husband Neal sat in my office, looking miserable. I had seen them 8 years ago for affair recovery … and somehow they were back in the same place. Tara, angry and hurt. Neal, with tired eyes and guilt-gray pallor. Even though this time he had had an emotional affair instead of a physical one, but it was a betrayal all the same. Despite feeling guilty he really didn’t know what to say. They both agreed this was not okay but were totally stumped about it kept happening.
The told me that they were “best friends” that rarely fought. They had similar values, good communication skills and genuinely loved each other….so why did infidelity keep rearing it’s ugly head?There’s a cultural myth in America that you can find “the one.” And that if you really love your partner you’ll never be tempted to stray or be attracted to other people.
Soulmates are made, not found. Creating a life long connection takes constant and conscious effort, and it’s not for everyone. Let me explain:
1.) It is not possible for one human being to meet all of your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.
Historically people lived in tribes and villages. Each person in the community had a different role; some people were hunters, others were cooks, others watched/cared for children, some were protectors that ensured safety. And each member of these villages knew their role and how essential the help, cooperation and support for everyone else was for survival. They also knew they were supposed to get different needs met by different relationships. Maybe their mate provided for their sexual needs, but their sisters or mothers provided for their emotional need, and maybe a village shaman helped then with spiritual issues.
The point is they knew no one person could meet every need they had, it was simply impossible. We may think with all of our modern conveniences and technology that we don’t need anyone else. But we’re wrong. Despite the progression of tech over the past 100+ years and the evolution of the wonderful pre-frontal cortex (part of your brain where logic, reason, etc. reside) we are still very much biologically wired like our ancestors. Stop trying to get everthing from one person. It’s exhausting and frustrating for you both. This gets even more complicated for people raising children without the daily help of extended family. Give yourself and your partner a brake and go get some of what you need from other relationships.
2.) Sexual attraction and emotional intimacy are both needed to make marriage work.
And it is often that one comes at the expense of the other. This is primarily because sexual tension is from polarity, individuality and tension. It is in differences and contrast that we become aroused. Emotional intimacy comes from feeling a sense of closeness and togetherness. This underlying friendship is what usually hold marriages together during times of stress and challenge. It is an art to balance the two and have a sense of harmony, or ebb and flow rather that choosing one over the other. If one area is really strong in your marriage strive to create more of the other.
3.) Marriage can be a LONG arrangement.
In regard to when and why the construct of marriage was originally created things have changed quite a bit. With life expectancy now in the 70’s-80’s range people live twice as long as they used to on average. This means there is the whole second or third life time people live that they didn’t before. Esther perel points out that many people will go through 4-5 relationships in a life- time. For some people they will be 4-5 evolutions within one marriage, for others they will be 4-5 different relationships, or any combination in between. Consider this when you find yourself at a pivotal point in a relationship; is this about me growing and learning about myself? Or have I outgrown the relationship itself and I simply don’t feel it is right for me anymore?
4.) Familiarity breeds boredom.
When you wake up with the same person, every day for years,particularly if you have a stable, steady, habitual or comfortable life it will inevitably become monotonous and predictable. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you’re bored. But instead of seeing it as your partner has become boring recognize it is the dynamic and familiarity that has become boring. Take the initiative to spice things up, confess your boredom, ask your partner to brainstorm with you, get creative and test your comfort zone.
5.) Creating a great marriage or long term relationship is a joint venture.
It is up to both of you to continuously put effort and energy into making your relationship what you want it to be. So many people come into my office ready to tell me all the ways their partner isn’t measuring up or how they are not being treated fairly. First and foremost check-in to see if you’re loving yourself. If you are giving from a place of perpetual selflessness you are setting yourself up. When you’re not actively loving yourself your energy is muddle, your vibe is off, and on a subconscious level your partner feels that your giving is not a gift, it’s a sacrifice. If you’re doing a good job loving yourself, check in about how well you’re loving your partner.
6.) Real love is Self + Us instead of self vs. Us.
It’s easy to get caught up in a who is right vs. who is wrong. In cases of infidelity it is easy to point to the partner that betrayed the other and identify that he/she was “wrong” for going outside of the marriage. But in order to really understand why and heal anything we have to take a look at the bigger picture. I often see “cheaters” that are nose deep in self-loathing, shame and guilt. Some even have insomnia, nausea and bouts of physical pain. I have no doubt these people are truly sorry for what they have done. And until the “why” is really examined it is virtually impossible to prevent it from happening again. It is through our relationships we gain a deeper sense of self, and through a stronger sense of self we can create stronger relationships. This is called interdependence.
7.) Most people have unrealistic expectations. Because of the amazing and sometimes toxic world of social media it is so easy for people to compare their lives to the idealized life of others. Social media is like photoshop for your life story; highlight the good stuff, eliminate the bad, position things at the most flatter angle and generally create a false image that somewhat resembles the underlying reality of your life. If you’re constantly observing the exciting vacations, expensive jewelry and fancy dinners that your friends are having while look at your own life and thinking “really, this, day after day, for the next 30-40 years…. I can’t bare it.” You’re choosing to focus on all the things you want from a place of lack and that will only bring you more of what you don’t want…disappointment and dissatisfaction. Instead try using those posts and pics as inspiration for things you want to do, or entertainment. Gossiping about others is actually a way that couples create closeness and connection. And a few inside jokes can go a long way to create some relief and bonding.
While the soulmate myth is just that — a myth — you can have a happy, fulfilling, sexy relationship with someone over time. But it does take work. And it often requires support. That’s where I come in. I specialize in helping people get the best out of their relationships and enjoy their lives.
Want to chat about the soulmate myth? Click here for a free 20 minute consult.